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Monday, January 25, 2021

Success Lyrics: the Wisdom of Buba Jammeh

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And there was this song that was still new called “Teretaybato” by Gambian musician Buba Jammeh. These were the days of the radio cassette player; and even that machine you may find to be obsolete now everywhere in the world (except Kiang); was a valuable possession in those days. I do remember a few years before that when one of my elder sisters got married in Banjul and the husband gave her an audio cassette player as one of the items for ‘mayeh bu njeka’, my friends at Perseverance Street argued that the tape, as we called it, did not belong to us; the groom only lent it to my family to use for the duration of the wedding festivities.

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So up went the sound teretaybato on our radio sets and high did the mood rise with it. It was a great song, if a bit profane, for the guy says “teretaybato sunkutu joo baa teretaybato…” But Buba Jammeh’s album was not simply about entertainment alone. The lead track in the album may have been about the tereto but he did sing a more instructive song in the same album called Tesitoe and it is this song that I want to write about for the message is as relevant today, perhaps even more relevant, than when Buba sang it in the early 80’s. “kaa kata kaa doekoo, na banko la kairo…” (To strive and to work hard for the betterment of the country) was the advice he gave. The term “tesitoe” itself is quite instructive for it literarily means to tie your waist and get ready to work. In my book “For The Gambia: Living The National Anthem”, I shared some thoughts on this:


It was the legendary kora player Jali Nyama Suso who sang the Mandinka song, “Gambia musoolu ning kaylu wo dookoo tumo see ta” (Women and men of The Gambia, it’s time to work!). Another kora maestro Jaliba Kuyateh sang, “Man dee ngembu naa pur borel Gambia” (I have girded my loins to wrestle for The Gambia), an apt metaphor for every Gambian to embrace and get prepared to work for the betterment of the motherland. Yet another message is contained in the Ucas Band de Sejo song, “Twenty-second July Movemento Yaya ko nga dookuwoo ke” (“The July 22nd Movement: The Gambian President Yahya says, “We should all work”).

The Gambian President Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya
A J J Jammeh is an exemplary role model for the love of work and “the joy of serving other people”. Every year the head of state spends his vacation in his Kanilai farm working and the proceeds of this work are donated to Gambians through his Jammeh Foundation for Peace. I have seen him proudly display the palms of his hands at a public rally, demonstrating the hardness of those palms to the youth. He shows them how hard he works on his farms and that his dedication to that work is not because he needs the proceeds, but because of his recognition of the dignity that is in work and his desire to help the less fortunate from the proceeds of his own sweat.

He was indeed demonstrating the immortal wisdom in the words of the philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who wrote: “The callous palms of the labourer are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch thrills the heart, than the languid fingers of idleness.”

My mother, Kaddy Jammeh (we call her Yaboye Sabally), is yet another good example. Widowed in 1977, when I was barely three years old, and left with the burden of raising five children, she declined all offers from relatives to raise some of the kids for her. Neither did she resort to begging to provide for her family. She too believes in the “love of work and the joy of serving other people.”

Unfortunately for us since the Kiangka’s started enjoying unlimited access to western education with the proliferation of schools with the advent of the July 22nd Revolution, they have all started to tie their necks instead of their waists. Yet western education should not preclude a dedication to useful work habits as amply demonstrated by our dynamic President Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh, in his zeal and dedication to agricultural production.

This is our country. The land is ours to till. Vision 2016 looms ahead and it is every Gambian’s business to make sure this target is achieved and I do believe we can get there with renewed commitment and united action across party and regional lines or other divisive considerations. During the Presidential Dialogue with the people tour I saw the length and breadth of this country for the first time. I saw beauty, and I saw bounty. Such a gem is this smiling coast of ours. The whole journey through the country constantly brought to mind the words of a poet “beautiful, bountiful Gambia. God made thee fruitful and fair”

The American Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson shared some great wisdom back in the days when America was not yet the shining city on the hill that it is today; the sage of Concord said this: Be a good patriot! Be prepared to sacrifice and pay the price necessary for the future welfare of your country. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth…the wise man stays at home…

Let us work for the betterment of our beloved motherland for we shall never have a better home than this. Buba Jammeh sang it best when he said, “nee taama ta foi sinka banta; foyeh sei nang…” (If you roam the world till your heels get pealed off, you will end up coming back home…).

Momodou Sabally

The Gambia’s Pen


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